"I'm looking for Anne, Anne Frank."
Nominated for an Oscar in 2009 for his beautiful, heart-wrenching Waltz with Bashir, Ari Folman has returned to the world of history and animation for Where is Anne Frank, a creative examination of the life of the Holocaust's most renowned victim.
Embodying a childlike innocence that only deepens the narrative, Folman tells the historical event from the perspective of Kitty, someone who has only ever existed in Anne's imagination, the young girl on the receiving end of her many diary entries. The viewpoint is unique, opening the door to a wealth of opportunity as we gain insight into Anne's final months.
Set in present-day Amsterdam, at the attic that Anne and her family called home for years before their capture by the Nazis during the Second World War, Folman takes his time setting the stage. A storm rages outside as a line of tourists wait for the chance to stand in the small room that Anne called her own. Inside, the glass encasing the beloved diary is smashed. A drop of ink, mixed with some magic, introduces us to Kitty.
Bewildered, Kitty scurries to a hiding place of her own as the doors to the museum are open to the public. At that moment, she longs for a friend. While the world around her knows of Anne's eventual fate, she desperately longs to locate her most trusted confidant who disappeared years ago without so much as a word.
As the people navigate in and out of Anne's small room, Kitty lays on the bed, pictures of movie stars on the wall above her head. The intrusion is felt with significant weight. It marks a stark metaphor for the lack of privacy Anne has received since her death. Her diary is one of the world's most-read books, her innermost thoughts on display for the world to see.
It is a theme that continues throughout as Anne, through flashbacks pulled from her diary pages, often mentions her longing for privacy. Though much of the film details the final months of her life, her lack of public interaction while in hiding leads her to instill complete trust in her diary; in Kitty. Their bond is strong, Kitty's desire to reconnect is sincere. All this makes her unknowing position most tragic.
As we better understand Kitty and her situation, the world around the imaginary figure begins to grow. Through this, Folman enhances the story, placing Kitty in the present world where, sad to say, not much has changed since Anne's final days in Amsterdam. Centered around a group of refugees, the lack of progress is painted clear, with a broad brush. These moments bring the past and present together, forcing Kitty to experience many of the same revelations that Anne did, away from her diary. In a way, Folman uses Anne's voice to further her own story and ensure that her experiences, and their modern relevance, remain known.
While Waltz with Bashir excelled in its animation and storytelling, Where is Anne Frank serves a different objective. Visually exquisite and conceptually sound, this film calls for change. But rest assured that though the horrific account is edited for a younger audience, its thematic elements are heard loud and clear. Sometimes you have to adjust your delivery to get a person's attention.